A self-described Los Angeles entertainment entrepreneur is charged in a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday with bilking $7 million from a recent divorcee who is identified by law enforcement officials as the ex-wife of actor-comedian Eddie Murphy.
Troy David Stratos faces 14 charges of fraud, money laundering and obstructing justice. Stratos, 45, was arrested Tuesday and made his first appearance in Los Angeles federal court. His attorney, Walter Urban, did not return a telephone message.
The divorcee is identified in court papers as "N.M...the ex-wife of E.M." who filed for divorce in August 2005. Three law enforcement sources told The Associated Press that the victim is Eddie Murphy's ex-wife, Nicole Murphy, but the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the identity of the alleged victim in the case.
Court officials would not confirm that the alleged victim is the actor-comedian's ex-wife.
Court records show Nicole Murphy sued Stratos and others last year in Los Angeles federal court and refiled the lawsuit in May in Florida state court. She filed for divorce from Eddie Murphy in August 2005.
The indictment charges that Stratos persuaded his victim to invest the proceeds of her divorce overseas, where they would earn a high rate of return. She put the proceeds into a revocable trust with Stratos in Fair Oaks, a Sacramento suburb, according to the federal indictment.
Prosecutors say Stratos never invested the money, but spent it on himself. He also opened a bank account in Florida, they say, and used portions of the money to pay the victim's expenses while leading her to believe he was paying her expenses out of his own pocket.
Nicole Murphy's federal lawsuit alleges she put $11 million into a trust with Stratos but he and the other defendants spent the money on themselves.
The wire and mail fraud charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, while the money laundering and obstruction charges carry 10-year maximum sentences.
Stratos claimed to be involved in the entertainment industry as a movie and video producer and director, as well as a talent promoter, prosecutors said.
Attorneys representing Nicole Murphy in her federal lawsuit declined comment. She divorced Eddie Murphy after a 12-year marriage. They had four daughters and one son.
She previously owned a home in the wealthy Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, though her federal lawsuit says she now lives in Calabasas outside Los Angeles.
Stratos told her he could sell her home to members of Middle Eastern royal families, but said she should lease luxury Rolls-Royce and BMW automobiles to make the property more attractive. The vehicles would then be sold as a package deal with the home, the indictment said.
But Stratos lived in the home and used the leased vehicles, never arranging for them to be sold, according to the charges. He later persuaded the woman to refinance several of her homes, including homes in Granite Bay and Sacramento, to get more cash, the charges allege.
Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, said Stratos has agreed to be returned to Sacramento to face the charges, and he is jailed pending a bail hearing scheduled for Wednesday.